Slot Machines Aren’t Real Games — Or Are They?
In the world of video games, slot machines get a bad rap.
I have worked at game studios where the slot game developers were biding their time, just getting their job done until they could find a way to work on “real games” instead of slots.
Before I started learning how to make good slot games, I shared their concern. At first glance, slots seem like simple, mindless entertainment. How can you possibly make a game compelling and fun to play when the players have so little freedom of choice?
And therein lies the challenge that drives most slot machine designers.
Slot machines are a fascinating blend of art, mathematics, and human psychology.
For a slot machine to be successful, a lot of things need to come together in one package:
- A strong and compelling math model
- Great pacing and timing
- Artwork that “pops”
- Catchy music and sounds
- A metaphor or narrative that ties the game together
In this age of “analytics paralytics” there is still an art to designing a great slot machine. You can nail all the elements listed above and your game still might not be a hit. There is a final, elusive element that’s needed — dare we call it luck? — that just makes people want to play the game.
I hope to touch on all these elements on this site at some point, though I’ll start first with what I consider the core of a good slot game: the math model.
A slot machine’s math model might not be the biggest attractor for a game — beautiful art, animation and sounds carry greater weight in that regard. But a dull or broken math model can kill a game’s popularity, and when that happens even the most awe-inspiring graphics can’t save it.
This blog will also cover other topics, like pacing and timing, and how metaphor and narrative can make slot games more appealing. I’ll try to demystify some of the closely-held secrets of slot game design, and maybe in the process, I can help add a bit of glitz to an underappreciated form of gaming.